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I am tired of the viruses and spyware on my computer. What can I do to stop it?

Buy a Mac

Buy a Mac or reformat your hard drive and install Linux. Seriously. The Mac is great for home users and Linux probably has everything you really need. Most any distribution of Linux will include:

  • A full featured, highly compatible office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentation graphics) - OpenOffice is the most popular
  • A full featured web browser - Mozilla Firefox is very popular
  • A variety of powerful email clients - Mozilla Thunderbird, Ximian Evolution and Kmail are all popular.
  • Chat programs that work on AOL, MSN, Yahoo and other chat networks - Gaim is very popular.

Many Linux distributions are free. Debian is my favorite Linux distribution. Debian is very stable, but it does not always have the latest and greatest for desktops. For home desktops, Mepis is interesting - I appreciate Warren Woodford's vision, and Ubuntu is popular. If you just want to try Linux, Mepis will run right from a bootable CD. Another classic "Live CD" distribution is Knoppix.

Other Alternatives

On my kid's computer, I was getting desperate. I had already forbidden all P2P file sharing software (is the music industry in league with the spyware authors?). Yet the spyware clean-ups were needed more frequently, and they were getting more and more intricate. I really was ready to switch to Linux (I might still buy a Mac!). Before I pulled the plug on Windows, I figured I would try running a different web browser and chat software (the last virus had infected the computer through AIM AOL Instant Messenger). Here are the links to the software I used:

Mozilla Firefox: This is a full featured web browser. Windows fanatics claim that Firefox has just as many security problems as Internet Explorer, but my experience is that after the switch to Firefox and Gaim (see below). My kid's computer stopped getting infected. Note carefully: After installed Firefox on my kid's computer, I logged into every user account and did the following:

  1. In each user account, I launched Firefox and allowed it to set itself as the default browser
  2. I changed all browser shortcuts to Firefox (check the Desktop and all Start Menu shortcuts)

The idea is to make it really hard to find a way to start IE. Also don't forget to update Firefox - for obvious reasons, Firefix updates are not included in Windows Update! There are a handful of sites that look wrong on Firefox, but all of our important ones work fine.

GAIM: The latest virus used AIM to get itself onto our computer (and the computers of everybody in the AIM "buddy list"), so I knew AIM had to go. Luckily, there are several programs that speak AIM and MSN. Gaim is free and even the source code is available for download. My kids didn't have any problems switching from AIM to Gaim.


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